A Letter to my Grandchildren

August 3, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Experiences, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir | 10 Comments
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June 2005

My dear Grandchildren,

Remember when you’ve been to the museum, where you saw old carts and other old things. You thought that it was very old, and that those days were very long ago. Well, we used to have our milk in one of those old carts

My Mum and Dad and us kids had come out from England when I was five. We didn’t have much money, even though my Dad worked very hard. He did manage to put a deposit on a block of land. Back then, not like it is now, the area was all bush, and our land was on the shore of the lake. There were five or six houses within a few hundred metres of us, and a little store over on the highway. Dad rented a caravan, and we lived in it on our block of land. There was no electricity, but the water was connected to a tap at the front of our block of land.

I remember how we all helped Dad to clear the land, and how we played in the bush around our house and on the lake shore. The only thing we had to watch out for was snakes.

Anyway, back to the cart – well, in a roundabout sort of way! How do you get your milk? In plastic bottles from the supermarket I’ll bet! Well, we didn’t. There were no supermarkets then. There were no plastic bottles either. And, where we lived, there weren’t even any glass milk bottles yet!

Our milk was brought around early every day by a man called Max. Max had a trusty old horse named Fred (now, isn’t that an original name for a horse!). Old Fred was very well trained. Max and Fred and the cart would come along the rough dirt road with a big tank of milk sitting on the back of the cart. As they went along, the people would come out of their houses with their billycans. Max would give a whistle, and Fred would stop, right outside the house – or caravan in our case.

Milk cart&horse

Each of us kids always wanted to be the one to take out the billycan to have it filled up from the tank. At first, we were all a bit wary of Fred the horse, because we weren’t used to such big animals, but we soon got to know that he wouldn’t hurt anyone. It was exciting to give Max our shilling and see the creamy milk splash into our billycan. When our can was full, and we had exchanged a word or two with Max, he would give another whistle, and off Fred would plod to the next house. We had to be really careful carrying the billycan of milk back down to Mum, so that we wouldn’t spill it.

Now, don’t you think that’s a more interesting way of buying your milk?

Mum would put the milk into an icebox because we didn’t have a refrigerator – or even electricity. But that’s another story!

With love from

Grandma

This started off as a letter to my young grandchildren– written over ten years ago when the first of them was only a year old, even though I pretended that he was a lot older. I wrote it to describe how we got our milk when I was a child,

I wanted to show that it wasn’t really so long ago that things were so different. But perhaps I’m having myself on. Even a child of seven or eight would think fifty years (as it was when I wrote it) WAS a heck of a long time ago. It just doesn’t seem that way to me, and now it is sixty years ago!

Anyway, it’s interesting to look back on those changes.

Would you like to share an example that illustrates the changes from when you were a child to now?

©  Linda Visman

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Finding a Place of Our Own

February 22, 2015 at 11:10 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family History, History | 8 Comments
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We lived up at Avondale until the bridge job was finished, then went back to Reid Park. Mr A, the farmer who owned the property next to which we’d been living at Avondale, had taken a liking to Mum (she was quite beautiful). After we moved away, he started to come around to the caravan and pester her. We’d only been back at the park for about a month, but Dad immediately decided it was time to find a permanent and safe place for us to live. I think this was late 1955 or early 1956.

One day he drove off in his work truck to Albion Park Rail, about five miles south of Dapto. Albion Park Rail was then a little village on the Princes Highway, with the main town of Albion Park a couple of miles to the west in dairy country. It was so named because the railway station was there and had been for about sixty years at that stage. Tommy Totten, the real estate agent, had several blocks of land available, but most were too expensive for us. However he did have three blocks by the lake on Koona Bay, each priced at ninety pounds. Dad checked them out, decided on one and put down a ten pound deposit then and there. It was Lot 8 (later #73) on Koona St, Albion Park Rail.

   Koona Bay on Lake Illawarra

Koona Bay on Lake Illawarra

The block of land backed onto the western shore of Lake Illawarra, south of Wollongong. That evening, with the purchase sorted out, Dad took us in his work truck to see it. When we arrived, the full moon was just rising out of the lake to the east. As we admired the view, a fisherman standing in his clinker-built boat, rowed right in front of the face of the moon. The scene couldn’t have been choreographed any better.

Dad asked Mum what she thought of the place. “Oh Ernie, it’s magic!” she said. He hadn’t told her about buying it. When he said, “This is ours”, Mum cried.

Windang St

Windang St

Wingang St is the road from the highway that we came down towards the lake. The gates are on the lake side of the railway line that we have to cross. Turn right at the end, where the truck is heading, on to Koona Street and a couple of hundred yards further along was our land, by the lake. That wooden cottage on the right-hand corner is still there, over sixty years later.

Within a day or two Dad moved the caravan to the block of land that had one huge tree about one-third the way down the block, with scrub to where bulrushes grew along the lake shore. Two houses stood side-by-side directly across the street from us, but there were hardly any other houses nearby. On our side of the street, there were none on both sides for quite a way along the lake shore. I have no photos of our caravan, or of the early years we were there.

The street was a wide, unsealed, rutted and pot-holed track. We had no electricity and just one water tap outside – but at least mains water was connected. We had the caravan, with the same equipment as before – a kerosene lamp and the spirit pressure cooker that Dad usually pumped up because Mum was scared of it. Mum still did all the cooking for the six of us on that little two-burner stove.

Dad also erected a heavy army disposal canvas tent so that we had more living room. The kids slept in the van and Mum and Dad out in the tent. As well as his day job, Dad began working out a way to get us a proper house to live in. However, the essentials had to be dealt with first.

There was no sewerage in the area, and it was far too expensive to put in a septic tank. So Dad did what everyone else did there. He built a little outhouse in the back yard, where we could go to use the tar-coated can. The “dunny-can man”, also known as the “sanno man”, came in a truck every week and exchanged the full can for an empty one. You didn’t want to be in there doing your business when he arrived! However, primitive as it was, that was the only facility of its kind we were to have for the next twenty years.

        

An old back yard toilet

An old back yard toilet

A ‘sanno man’ carries a full can to his truck

A ‘sanno man’ carries a full can to his truck

Washing clothes was always a hard job. Dad built a stand for concrete double wash tubs and set up a wood-burning copper. All our water had to be carted in galvanised buckets from the tap up near the road and poured into the copper. The fire under the copper heated the water to boiling, and all our clothes (they were cotton) apart from the woollens got a good wash.

Once ready, the clothes were fished out with a stick – usually part of a wooden broom handle – and dumped into the concrete rubs that we’d filled with cold water to be rinsed. Attached to the divider between the tubs was a hand wringer. The clothes would be swished around in the water to get rid of as much soap as possible, then squeezed between the rollers to remove that water and fed into the second tub.

There would be a second rinse and wring, then the clothes, sheets, towels, etc, would be carried out in a large cane basket and hung on the rope line Dad had strung between a tree and a post in the back yard. A long wooden prop held up the middle of the line to prevent the washing from dragging on the ground. After the washing was done, it was the kids’ job – just the girls of course – to scoop out the cold, jellified washing water from the copper. That was a job we hated!

We still used a bowl or bucket when washing ourselves. There was no shower until Dad could build a bathroom, and that took about a year. Mum had a hard job all through those early years, but hardly ever complained. And now, at last, she was happy we had a home base.

There was an ice chest in the caravan, for which we bought a big block of ice from the ice man every week. It kept our milk and meat cool. We didn’t get our milk in bottles or cartons then. The milk cost a penny-ha’penny for a pint and we had a quart (two pint / one litre) billy-can. The baker also used to deliver, but he had a truck (later on, the milkman did too). He would place the uncut and unwrapped loaves (no sliced bread then) into a basket, which was covered by a clean cloth, and bring them down to the van.

An old milk cart

An old milk cart

A Memory:

The milkman comes around on the dirt road past our place every day. His cart has only two wheels, and is pulled by a horse. The milkman has a seat up at the front of the cart, but he doesn’t sit up there much. He walks along, and makes clicking sounds to the horse when he wants it to move along. Usually the horse just keeps walking along slowly and stops when the milkman walks round the back of the cart to fill up our billycans with milk. The cart has a big tank on it, with a tap where the milkman gets the milk out. We all like to take the billycan out to get it filled up with nice creamy milk, and give the milkman the pennies to pay for it (1955/6).

© Linda Visman

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